Modi’s pitch for global “solidarity” in Davos takes aim at Trump without mentioning his name

Calm before the storm.
Calm before the storm.
Image: Reuters/Denis Balibouse
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Davos, Switzerland

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi took aim at Donald Trump’s “America First” policies at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering in Davos today, in a speech beseeching global leaders to abandon selfishness and protectionism, and embrace the world’s shared future.

Modi is mostly preaching to the choir in Davos, so his words seemed to be tailored as much for his counterparts in Washington, DC, where Trump’s administration has challenged global agreements and restricted immigrants. Yesterday, the US hiked tariffs on solar panels and washing machines, a move immediately criticized by Chinese and South Korean leaders who threatened to retaliate.

The first Indian prime minister to speak at Davos since 1997, Modi echoed the anti-Trump and pro-globalization sentiments of Chinese president Xi Jinping last year, albeit with a bit more flourish and liberal use of quotes from ancient Indian scripture.

“All of us, we are linked together as one family,” Modi said. “Our destiny is a common thread that links all of us.” The world has lost its “feeling of solidarity,” he added. His speech focused on what he considers the world’s top three challenges, two of which stand in direct contrast Trump’s nationalistic world view.

One is climate change, which Modi described as the “greatest threat to the survival and human civilization as we know it.” Failing to address it shows an “alarming glimpse of our own selfishness,” he said. “If we are all children of the earth, why is there today a war between us and the earth?”

Rich countries should do more to help emerging markets pollute less without sacrificing economic growth, he added. “Everyone talks about reducing carbon emissions but there are very few people or countries who back their words with their resources to help developing countries to adopt appropriate technology,” Modi said. He touted India’s pledge to produce 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022, and said 60 gigawatts have been produced in the past three years.

Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord last summer, making the US the only country that isn’t pledging to reduce its carbon emissions in the coming years. Trump has stacked his cabinet with climate-change deniers and former coal executives.

The world’s second biggest challenge is terrorism, Modi said, but didn’t dwell on the subject for too long.

The third is the protectionist turn some countries are taking. “Many societies and countries are becoming more and more focused on themselves,” Modi said. “It feels like the opposite of globalization is happening.”

He added, in closing, that “India considers the entire world its family,” and the assembled Davos leaders are “always welcome.” Trump is scheduled to speak here at the end of the week, and past performance suggests he’s likely to deliver a very different message to the Davos crowd.